Monday, May 25

Putin ally re-elected Moscow mayor amid pension protests


A serviceman of the Russian National Guard beats a protester during a rally against planned increases to the nationwide pension age in Moscow. — Reuters photo

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s close ally has been overwhelmingly re-elected Moscow’s mayor, election officials said, following a poll overshadowed by protests over a pension reform.

Sergei Sobyanin, mayor of the Russian capital since 2010, received 70.02 per cent of the vote, according to results released by the Moscow election commission. Turnout stood at 30.8 per cent.

In 2013, Sobyanin barely escaped a second-round run-off after a strong challenge from protest leader Alexei Navalny, winning 51.4 per cent of the vote, with Putin’s top critic unexpectedly picking up over a quarter of the ballots. This time round serious opposition candidates were kept off the ballot paper in favour of the incumbent.

Ahead of the vote a Moscow court jailed Navalny for 30 days, just a couple weeks before he planned to stage a rally against a deeply controversial pension reform on election day.

In a nationwide day of polls, members of the ruling United Russia party also won in elections for governors and lawmakers in other Russian cities. The election day was overshadowed by public anger and mass arrests during nationwide protests against the hugely unpopular pension reform.

Police arrested 1,018 people, mainly in Saint Petersburg and the Urals city of Ekaterinburg, who were taking part in demonstrations in dozens of Russian cities, independent monitor OVD-info said.

In Moscow, police opened two criminal probes over violence against representatives of the authorities, the monitor said.

Government plans to raise the state pension age to 60 for women and 65 for men has led to a rare outburst of public anger and seen Putin’s approval ratings take a major hit. — AFP